Zero Trust: Inside Mizzou's move to the Southeastern Conference
September 3, 2011 was game day in Columbia, Missouri. On Faurot Field, Gary Pinkel’s Tigers opened the 2011 football season with a 17-5 win over Miami of Ohio. There was little to separate it from many other season openers. It was, in almost every sense, unremarkable.
That was the 11th consecutive season Pinkel had led a team preparing for Big 12 conference play. Unknown to anyone at the time, it would also be the last. The real action on that day—a fact known to only four people at the time—was happening six stories above, on the roof of the Memorial Stadium press box.
Director of Athletics Mike Alden, Chancellor Brady Deaton, Interim System President Steve Owens and Interim General Counsel Phil Hoskins convened on the roof directly above the media assembled to cover the season opener. While questions from those reporters—and countless others across the country—raged about conference realignment, Missouri’s leadership team was just a stairwell away, beginning to hammer out a resolution that would shape the future of Mizzou sports, and the University as a whole.
“The four of us met on the roof in the first quarter,” Alden said a few weeks ago. “It was almost like, ‘Enough. That’s enough.’”
“That was a meeting just to call the shots,” Deaton recalled, five years later in an office at Ellis Library on the Mizzou campus.
Missouri had been a member of the Big 12 for the past 15 years, a conference that was founded when the existing members of the Big Eight absorbed Texas, Texas A&M and, after some Lone Star-sized political posturing, Baylor and Texas Tech.
“The Big 12 was a shotgun wedding and a dysfunctional mess from day one,” R. Bowen Loftin wrote in his book, The 100-Year Decision: Texas A&M and the SEC.
Added Alden: “The structure of the Big 12, the way it was originated, in my opinion, that league was set up to fail. I do believe that if it would have been set up differently, it could have been one of the greatest leagues ever. When you set it up and you had favoritism toward one institution and then everybody else, it’s not going to work.”
Loftin was the President of Texas A&M when the Aggies made the move from the Big 12 to the Southeastern Conference. The decision for Missouri to make that same leap was, for all intents and purposes, made that September morning as the University of Missouri’s four major power brokers reached their breaking point.
“The question was then, could we effectively make a go of it with the Big 12?” Deaton said. “We said, ‘No, we cannot.’”
Just 64 days after that meeting, Missouri was admitted as the 14th member of the SEC, bringing an end to a process that lasted nearly 700 days and involved four of the country’s five major conferences. This fall, five years after Missouri joined its seventh athletic conference, major players involved in making—and covering—the decision spoke to PowerMizzou.com about the process, often revealing insight that has not previously been shared. Here, then, is the oral history of how the University of Missouri ended up in the Southeastern Conference, as told by those in the middle of the storm.
*Note: We conducted many of these interviews in person or over the phone in recent weeks. Quotes included below for context that are from other sources are noted as such.
For more background on the formation of the Big 12, read Joan Niesen’s excellent oral history of the birth of the league.
Western Interstate University Football Association
December 2009: The Big Ten looks to get bigger
BIG TEN COUNCIL OF PRESIDENTS/CHANCELLORS STATEMENT, DECEMBER 15, 2009: “The COP/C believes that the timing is right for the conference to once again conduct a thorough evaluation of options for conference structure and expansion. As a result, the commissioner was asked to provide recommendations for consideration by the COP/C over the next 12 to 18 months.”
MIZZOU DIRECTOR OF ATHLETICS MIKE ALDEN: "Once Jim Delany came out and said we’re going to have to take a look at expanding, then that shifted the landscape of college athletics.”
MISSOURI GOVERNOR JAY NIXON IN DECEMBER 2009: “I want to look at what options the Big Ten may have to offer. This is not something that should be kept on the sports page and treated with the back of the hand. We have an obligation to make our schools as excellent as they can be.”
MISSOURI CHANCELLOR BRADY DEATON TO THE KANSAS CITY STAR, DECEMBER 2009: “The University of Missouri has not been contacted by the Big Ten. Should there be an official inquiry or invitation, we would evaluate it based upon what would be in the best interest of MU athletically and academically.”
NIXON TO THE ASSOCIATED PRESS, DECEMBER 2009: "I’m not going to say anything bad about the Big 12, but when you compare Oklahoma State to Northwestern, when you compare Texas Tech to Wisconsin, I mean, you begin looking at educational possibilities that are worth looking at. If a significant conference with a long history of academic and athletic excellence talks about you joining them, you shouldn't just say, 'We're from the old Big 8 and I remember when …’ If they want to talk, we should talk, and we should listen.”
NIXON: “Various TV crews had come in and we were doing our first Christmas at the mansion and doing these holiday greetings. One of the stations came in from Kansas City and at the end of the ‘Flowers look pretty, the lights look nice,’ I got asked a question. Obviously had been thinking about it and that’s where I made the comment about if the Big Ten is looking and I said the academic stuff comparing Northwestern to Oklahoma State and what not. At the time it felt a tad glib for the position I was in, but it did strike a nerve. On a lot of fronts. I won’t say I’m surprised. When you’re Governor, when you say stuff, you understand it’s going to get printed, you understand it’s going to be heard and I can’t say I was overly surprised, but it did clearly strike a chord out there that reverberated for some time. Put it this way, I know T. Boone Pickens wasn’t happy with it. Personally, I know that.”
DOUG GOTTLIEB, CBS SPORTS: “When Delany offered up the possibility of expansion, [Missouri was] the first ones to put their hands up and say they were interested…I think the reason people have said that (Missouri is to blame) is because of the Big Ten thing, not the timeline of when they left for the SEC. They said they wanted out and once Missouri’s like, ‘Hey we’ll go to the Big Ten,’ now all of a sudden all bets are off and now Nebraska just starts fighting to get in line and everybody else started following suit.”
ALDEN: “When Jim Delany had come out and said we're going to take a look at this, we were just trying to be proactive in this way. We weren't promoting ourselves. We were just doing a self analysis. This is who we are. So if somebody called and wanted to talk to us, we didn’t have to say, ‘Hang on for a minute we’ve got to go do our homework.’”
FEBRUARY 2010: THE PAC JOINS THE PARTY
The PAC-10 (at the time) became the second major conference to broach the topic of adding teams. The immediate candidates included Colorado, long thought to be a West-coast leaning institution. But the surprise in this round of expansion was the targeting of Texas, Texas A&M, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Texas Tech to join the Buffaloes, thus forming a 16-team super-conference…and decimating the Big 12.
PAC-12 COMMISSIONER LARRY SCOTT STATEMENT, FEBRUARY 2009: “It is really over the next six to twelve months that we’ll start having serious analysis and serious evaluations. If the Pac-10 is going to think about expanding, now is our window.”
R. BOWEN LOFTIN, FORMER TEXAS A&M PRESIDENT AND MISSOURI CHANCELLOR: “My second meeting with Scott, he was making the rounds of all six schools and he had with him an actual draft letter of invitation to join, with all the terms in it. It was four or five pages long. I have a copy of that still. I said to him, I can see what this says, but I said, ‘I don’t think Texas wants it this way.’ He said, ‘Well that’s the way it has to be.’”
LOFTIN: “Scott told me that it wasn’t an easy sell because other than A&M and Texas the other schools really didn’t have the reputation academically that they really wanted. Colorado did. Utah didn’t.”
JUNE 1-4, 2010: BIG 12 MEETINGS
DELOSS DODDS, TEXAS ATHLETIC DIRECTOR, JUNE 2010: “I’m not waiting to see what other people are going to do. I’m going to know what our options are, so that’s not going to change. My hope is that the Big 12 survives, and you and I retire knowing it’s a great conference. It’s been very viable, and if it stays in place, it will continue to be very viable.
“We did not start (this). If we need to finish it, we’ll finish it.”
ALDEN: “This is before Nebraska had announced that they were going to leave. We were at one of these meetings and Dan Beebe was running it, there was all this tension in the room and Coach (Tom) Osborne was just so, he was always so class, I just loved being in meetings with him. He was very thoughtful. When all this was going on, there was one athletic director in particular, I can’t remember what school it was, but it’s in Austin. Anyhow, I heard a guy in that chair, he just started flipping out—flipping out is probably too strong a term, but he got pretty agitated, this person—and started dropping expletives about this and firing them kind of at us, at Mizzou, because Mizzou was rumored maybe the Big Ten is looking. And I was trying to be very professional. You know who stood up for me? For us? Tom Osborne.”
LOFTIN: “Beebe asked each one of us, 'Are you in or out?' Brady was noncommittal, the Colorado chancellor was clear they were gonna leave. What was surprising to me was in every case the answer was given by the Chancellor or President except Nebraska. And Tom had to be the one to speak up. Wow, that was a very interesting meeting.”
CHIP BROWN ON ORANGEBLOODS.COM, JUNE 3, 2010: “The PAC-10 is prepared to make a bold move and invite Texas, Texas A&M, Texas Tech, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, and Colorado to join its league, according to multiple sources close to the situation. Left out would be Iowa State, Baylor, Kansas, Kansas State, Nebraska, and Missouri.”
EXCERPT FROM THE 100-YEAR DECISION: “When that news broke, that day’s meeting essentially ended. It wasn’t just an elephant in the room; it was the entire zoo.”
GOTTLIEB: “Look, Chip had it right. They were gone and then ESPN was like if that deal blows up, we’ve got to go back and rework all of our contracts and FOX has the Pac-12 contract and it was a, there’s a term for it, not sunken costs, it was a loss leader. This idea like we’re gonna lose money on this Longhorn thing, maybe forever. Maybe eventually we’ll make money on it, but we’re gonna lose a whole hell of a lot more money if all of a sudden OU and Texas and Oklahoma State and somebody else goes to the PAC 12. Chip Brown had it right. At the last second that thing got blown up.”
EXCERPT FROM THE 100-YEAR DECISION: “I left those meetings with the feeling that it was only a matter of time before the Big 12 was done … and the doomsday clock had officially begun its countdown with the report from Orangebloods.com.”
EXCERPT FROM JUNE 2010 BERRY TRAMEL COLUMN IN THE DAILY OKLAHOMAN: “This isn't about Missouri. Nobody cares about Missouri. Stay, go, drop football, get mad all over again that the Insight Bowl invited Iowa State. Doesn't matter.
If only Missouri leaves the Big 12, the league is fine. Heck, the league thrives. TV revenues wouldn't go down, plus there's one less mouth to feed. Heck, the NCAA might even give the Big 12 a waiver and let it keep the football championship game.
This is about Nebraska. Everybody cares about Nebraska. Nebraska helps make the league go. Without Nebraska, Texas' and Oklahoma's enthusiasm for the Big 12 wanes.”
BRADY DEATON, MISSOURI CHANCELLOR: “Underlying the Oklahoma open discussion was the continuing coalition of Oklahoma and Texas and their harking back to the days when they were part of the Southwest Conference and they came into the Big 12. They had agreements—I’m quoting now what we kept hearing over a period of years—they had agreements that weren’t necessarily in writing but that they expected the conference to adhere to and those decisions tended to favor that group in the southwest. That did not sit well with Missouri nor most of the other members of the Big 12. We tolerated it for a period to the point where it continued to create friction in the Big 12. We were a governing board beset by those tensions. A lot of our energy went into trying to hold together and do good with a situation that we would have preferred to be very different and very explicit rules about how the conference was governed. Commissioners at the time, we constantly were fighting that battle, we were in constant disagreement. Board meetings were often not a lot of fun because of that.”
JUNE 2010: THE EXODUS BEGINS...AND STALLS
In the days following the Big 12 Conference meetings, the league would lose two teams. The result was a Big 12 with ten teams, a Big Ten with 12 teams and the new PAC-12. Suddenly, everyone in the Big 12 was left wondering if there would even be a Big 12 by the end of the summer.
PAC-10 COMMISSIONER SCOTT STATEMENT: “We’re thrilled that Colorado is joining us as a result of the exhaustive process we’ve been going through. I can’t think of a better fit academically, as well as athletically. It’s a very exciting time.”
COLORADO ATHLETIC DIRECTOR MIKE BOHN, JUNE 2011: ”The [Missouri] governor's remarks got me going. We had to do something, and fast,”
NIXON: “I don’t regret them at all. I think they’re appropriate comments. We had the Texas Bowl not too much later. The reason I was kind of fired up at that time was when I met with Beebe down at the Texas Bowl, I don’t know, let’s just say that as a governor, I feel a responsibility to speak carefully, but I also speak for six million Missourians and I don’t feel like commissioners of leagues should, in essence, tell me what to say. We had a discussion. And I got from that sense that the problems with Texas, its own TV contract and everything else, were real and the University and its administration should keep its options open.”
LOU ANNA SIMON, MICHIGAN STATE PRESIDENT, BIG TEN COP/C CHAIR: ”By unanimous vote, the Big Ten Presidents and Chancellors are pleased to welcome the University of Nebraska-Lincoln to the Big Ten Conference.”
NEBRASKA CHANCELLOR HARVEY PERLMAN, JUNE 2010: “Nebraska did not start this discussion. Early on, after the Big Ten announced that it intended to consider expansion, we saw reports that officials of Missouri had made clear that they would want to go to the Big Ten, including statements by their governor, I believe by members of their Board of Curators and by their Chancellor, at least comments that were clearly not in support of the Big 12.”
LOFTIN: “I don’t believe that. The whole thing started because of Texas, I can tell you that. That’s for sure. No doubt to me. The earliest situation was the decision made by DeLoss Dodds—not my friend—and Bill Powers, the President there. They decided that it was going to be better for them to go to the PAC than anywhere else.”
ALDEN: “Jim Delany and their general counsel, they were reaching out and they were talking to some schools. We were one of them. It wasn't like we were promoting ourselves. They just wanted to talk to us and say 'Hey, you know, what kind of characteristics do you have? We’ve done our homework on you guys. We’re not here to be able to offer anything. We’re not here to be able to do anything at all, we're just wanting to talk to a few institutions.' For us, it was great that he wanted to talk to us. We did, in person (in North Carolina). And then there was no advertising, no promotion, it was just a discussion. Kind of a fact finding discussion. Commissioner Delany was awesome. He really was. He was first class all along. And then they made a decision at some point when they expanded that they were going to go with Nebraska.”
NIXON: ”The initial discussions of (the SEC), I was not as optimistic about that being something that would happen early on. I got much more optimistic later. The Big Ten seemed originally like kind of a natural fit in the sense when you look at the schools and the state and all that stuff. The SEC because of its incredible football tradition seemed a little more distant. But that distance closed pretty quickly when the Big Ten made its choice.”
GOTTLIEB: “I was led to believe that the initial idea of expansion was, one, to get the Big 10 championship game and, two, to ultimately get markets in the Northeast. Missouri didn’t do anything for them. St. Louis and Kansas City kind of did nothing for them. They already had St. Louis with Illinois. Nebraska was big in Jersey for a time, was a big national name and that’s why even though academically it wasn’t at the level of Missouri, they swallowed hard and went Nebraska even though Missouri openly opined with the league.”
GARY PINKEL, MIZZOU HEAD FOOTBALL COACH: “Nebraska, rich tradition in the Big 12. They saw what was happening. They were sitting in meetings, they saw what was happening, they saw what had happened with one of our members and the control that they had and the influence that they had and they just said ‘We’re not doing this.’ Tom Osborne, I remember a quote, when they were in the Big Eight, they had a fierce competition with everybody, even Oklahoma. Fierce competition. But at the end of the day they always did what was best for that league. It was never about one team.”
ALDEN: "Holy cow, if something blows up here, we’re gonna be outside looking in…Every time we would turn around, Texas would say this or Texas would say that and it was like, 'Wait a minute here, we’re all on the same team, right?' We weren’t...The legitimate concern there was that if in fact this would blow up that we at Mizzou would be left out of a major conference. And that would be a travesty. We’re a flagship institution in a state of over six million people, we’re an AAU University, we’ve got all this research, all the stuff, we’re successful at what we do. I was really concerned.”
DEATON: “One of the other seminal moments for me was when my colleague at one of the other institutions, a major AAU institution, called up and said, ‘I think we should join another conference out here that would yield a revenue of maybe $4 million a year (sources told PowerMizzou.com recently the Big East was that conference), when at the time in the Big 12 we were probably getting 12 to 14 and we knew the SEC was in the 20 range at that time. It’s now up to about 40, fortunately. It was a very sobering moment. I said to that individual, the other president, I said, ‘I don’t think we can afford to ever do that.’ Then we had the very realistic discussion, ‘Well, yes, but what happens for next season if we’re here and we don’t have the other members of the conference and we’re stuck with one of the lesser tier conferences?’ Those were very sobering moments and phone calls for all of us.”
LOFTIN: “Missouri in my mind never was the instigator of that. Missouri clearly was worried about its future, as was KU and Kansas State and Iowa State. No doubt about that. And I don’t blame anybody for going out and trying to find the right place to go. And going to the Mountain West? Come on. Going from the Big Eight to there? No. Big East? Even worse in some respects. Why? That’s a basketball conference anyway. Why do you want to go there? They had to say, I think, the Big Ten was really the only viable option for us. I don’t think the SEC was even in the mix at that time.”
JOE SCHAD, ESPN.COM, JUNE 14, 2010: “The departure of Texas, Texas Tech, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State to the Pac-10 is imminent, four sources within the Big 12 said Monday.
One source said commissioner Dan Beebe's last-minute plan to save the conference has ‘zero’ chance to succeed. Another source said it is ‘very unlikely’ to succeed.”
EXCERPT FROM THE 100-YEAR DECISION: “But by 4:00 p.m. that day, Texas had abandoned months of planning, positioning, and posturing to stay right where it had been since 1996. Bill Powers called Dan Beebe in the commissioner’s ‘war room’ in Irving, Texas, with the announcement that the Longhorns had turned down the Pac-10 invitation and were staying in the Big 12.”
LETTER POSTED ON TEXAS A&M OFFICIAL WEBSITE, JUNE 14, 2010: “At the end of the day, ten of the twelve schools in the Big 12, including Texas A&M, have determined that the conference was definitely worth saving due to our collective strengths in academics, national competitiveness, geographic fit, and overall financial value.”
CLAY TRAVIS, OUTKICKTHECOVERAGE.COM: “I was so focused to be honest on the idea of Texas A&M to the SEC, whether or not they were going to go, at the last minute they said we’re not going to do it. That kind of pulled everything back. To me the linchpin was always A&M. I didn’t focus on anybody other than A&M that year. It was, if A&M’s going to go, the SEC’s going to expand. If A&M’s not going to go, the SEC’s not going to expand.”
BERNIE MACHEN, UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA PRESIDENT, SEC BOARD OF PRESIDENTS CHAIRMAN: “It was really the A&M trustees that started this ball rolling. We were really not that interested in expansion. We just had never paid any attention to it. At this time, Nebraska was going into the Big 10, Colorado was going, they hadn’t gone to that point, but the big move was Nebraska had gone into the Big Ten and that had sort of destabilized the Big 12. Then A&M called, I guess they called Mike (Slive) first and he went down and met with them and he got me involved and that’s sort of how it got rolling.”
EXCERPT FROM THE 100-YEAR DECISION: “As I quickly discovered, Texas was playing an elaborate, behind-the-scenes chess game, strategically making moves in its own best interest and treating virtually all other schools like expendable pieces. We had no interest in playing that game.”
EXCERPT FROM THE 100-YEAR DECISION: “I believed that Beebe’s plan offered only a temporary fix, and I asked Slive if he would be receptive to hearing from me again in the future if it turned out that the Big 12 no longer seemed like a viable option to Texas A&M. He assured me that the SEC would welcome a call from Texas A&M if that were ever the case.”
MACHEN: “One of the secret communication links that we had is that Brady and I are good friends...I think he and I might have had a preliminary conversation and at that time, we hadn’t taken A&M and we said we would be willing to talk. We were late to the game in the SEC in terms of expansion. I can’t tell you for sure (when) but I can tell you that Brady and I had a couple of conversations that didn’t lead to anything.”
DEATON: “Bernie and I have had long term discussions and friendships and we had discussed, ‘Hey when the time comes, it may make sense for Missouri…’ We had maintained sort of an open point of discussion on those kinds of issues. That was there in the background with no action or even no thought of action actually.”
MACHEN: “I couldn’t of course respond for the whole group, but I talked to Mike Slive afterwards, I told [Deaton] we would in fact be interested in talking. That’s all Brady was asking for. I think Missouri was sort of feeling trapped. They had these two behemoths Oklahoma and Texas throwing their weight around and not leaving the rest of the league feeling very comfortable and I think Brady was just trying to see if he had other options.”
JUNE 2010-JANUARY 2011: AN UNEASY PEACE
The Big 12 (10) was sticking together. Realignment was over. For the time being. Then came the Longhorn Network.
ESPN.COM RELEASE, JANUARY 19, 2011: “ESPN will help develop, launch and operate the [Longhorn] network. It will also handle distribution of the network, which is unnamed as of now. The deal is worth $300 million over 20 years. The network will launch in September.”
GOTTLIEB: “This kind of goes back to when the Big Ten Network was formed. The Big 12 did their own research and the research said the Longhorn Network might work, the Longhorn and Aggie Network will probably work, the Big 12 Network, there’s no appetite for it. Texas was not only always powerful, but became even more emboldened at that point. They were a dominant football program, they’re a dominant basketball program, at the time they were a dominant baseball program and at the time they were the only ones that could use their third tier rights and make more money than everybody else. Then everybody got jealous of the Big Ten Network, knowing the dollar figures that were being tossed around for what the Big Ten was supposed to make. That’s how a lot of this started. It’s like the secret that every Big 12 school has been told by the commissioner’s office, this is going back ten years ago or more, was there’s no appetite for a Big 12 Network.”
EXCERPT FROM THE 100-YEAR DECISION: “One thing truly brought Texas A&M’s former students, current students, fans, faculty, and staff together in the summer of 2011, uniting practically all Aggies in their pursuit and support of a move to the Southeastern Conference: the Longhorn Network (LHN). To the fans of the maroon and white, LHN was a villainous lightning rod, the equivalent of the light saber–wielding Darth Vader, the flesh-eating Hannibal Lecter and the ruby slipper–coveting Wicked Witch of the West all rolled up into one rules-bending antagonist. We needed a dragon to slay, and LHN became our fire-breathing, claw-baring, wing-flapping serpent in burnt orange.”
PINKEL: “I knew that I just wanted to be proactive. I think that's the only thing I ever talked to Mike (Alden) about. I just don’t want to be sitting here and this team goes here and the league’s dwindling down. That was my biggest concern because things were happening so quick.
“What’s gonna happen? Oklahoma leaves, or Texas, whatever. There’s a lot of different combinations. That’s what I remember.”
AUGUST 2011: THE EXODUS RESUMES
GOTTLIEB: “Texas A&M people tipped me off. They’re like, 'Hey, this is done, it’s happening.' I was like 'How sure are you?' When you’re at ESPN or anywhere, you’ve got to get two sources. So, all right, call this guy, this guy, this guy and I called a couple other people and all of them said, ‘Yeah, it’s happening, here’s the process.’ So I went with it.”
DEATON, AUGUST 13, 2011: "I know there are all kind of rumors out there, but I can assure you that the University of Missouri is totally committed to the Big 12 in case there is any question.”
ALDEN, AUGUST 13, 2011: ”No. The answer to your question is no. I want to make sure: No.”
GOTTLIEB: “Alden comes out and he’s like, ‘He doesn’t know what the fuck he is talking about.’ I start saying ‘Wait, maybe people are lying to me.’ I called my buddy up who originally tipped me off, he’s like, ‘No, dude, you’re good. This is kind of par for the course. Everybody has to say they’re on board. We were told to say we were on board with it. Our boosters are super fired up.’”
ALDEN: “I remember when you asked me that. How the hell did Gottlieb get that? I remember when he tweeted that. Because I’m sitting out there just watching practice. ‘Hey Mike, there’s this thing out there.’ We had never talked to Mike Slive.
“We didn’t have anything other than A&M’s going. So when you came up to us at practice, there had been nothing. There had been no communication with the SEC.”
GOTTLIEB: “I know I had the story right. I never took a single journalism class, but I know the rules of proper sourcing.”
TRAVIS: “A lot of people were talking about Clemson, Florida State, Louisville and what I knew based on conversations I had had with people in high positions in the SEC was that there was no way they were going to expand and add another team in a state where they already had a team. That, again, went to the SEC Network kind of blueprint. It made sense to go and add new markets in terms of the network. It made zero sense to add teams in the same state. You heard a lot about Clemson, you heard a lot about Florida State, you even heard some Georgia Tech, some Louisville. All of those things were dead on arrival.”
SEC STATEMENT, AUGUST 14, 2011: “The SEC presidents and chancellors met today and reaffirmed our satisfaction with the present twelve institutional alignment. We recognize, however, that future conditions may make it advantageous to expand the number of institutions in the league.”
LOFTIN LETTER TO BIG 12 COMMISSIONER DAN BEEBE, AUGUST 31, 2011: “After much thought and consideration, and pursuant to the action of the Texas A&M University System Board of Regents authorizing me to take action related to Texas A&M University’s athletic conference alignment, I have determined it is in the best interest of Texas A&M to make application to join another athletic conference.
We appreciate the Big 12’s willingness to engage in a dialogue to end our relationship through a mutually agreeable settlement. We, too, desire that this process be as amicable and prompt as possible and result in a resolution of all outstanding issues, including mutual waivers by Texas A&M and the conference on behalf of all the remaining members.”
AUGUST 2011: MISSOURI'S RESPONSE
The Aggies leaving left the Big 12 with just nine teams and a—to be kind—uncertain future. The remaining nine schools were publicly talking about holding the league together and even adding new teams. Meanwhile, Mizzou--and everyone else--was busy exploring backup plans.
DEATON: “The President of Oklahoma (David Boren) came by and picked me up in his airplane and he and I flew down to talk to Bowen Loftin.”
LOFTIN: “They wanted to talk us out of it…We own the airport in College Station. There’s a little conference room there in the FBO and so we met there, where I met (Larry) Scott in fact a couple times, but anyway, we met there for probably a couple hours. They really pushed hard to keep us in, but at that time it was very much a decided factor by our board. Everybody in control at A&M wanted to go that way.”
Part of the pitch was that five schools, including Missouri, would give up some revenue to compensate A&M and others who were considering a move as an enticement to remain in the Big 12.
LOFTIN: "I said 'That makes it even worse.' Back up a little bit. After the 2010 thing, we were all stymied then, I went to the board. They put me on a committee to try to solve the problem. I said ‘We have to figure out a way to move us to an equitable situation. As long as we pay some more than others it’s going to be a problem. Let’s figure this out.’ So I was actually working on a sub-committee of the board, trying to come up with a solution to this problem long term about inequity to the conference. Then I got this offer from them and it sounded good, but I said, ‘It doesn’t mean a problem is resolved.’”
DEATON: “We certainly never left the Big 12 because Texas A&M left. The Big 12 turned its attention to insuring that we had another strong University ready to come in that would sustain where we were going. At that point, we were totally committed, we were looking at other schools, had discussions and analysis…I was (committed) right up until the turning point.”
PINKEL: “That’s one of the best teams in this league and meanwhile Colorado was gone, meanwhile Nebraska’s gone. You start doing the math. Things are dwindling.”
SEPTEMBER 2-3, 2011: THE POINT OF NO RETURN
Deaton had tried and failed to keep Texas A&M in the league. Missouri was very much in limbo, but most of the sentiment seemed to be that the teams remaining in the Big 12 were looking to hold the league together. That all changed with one comment.
DAVID BOREN, UNIVERSITY OF OKLAHOMA PRESIDENT, SEPTEMBER 2, 2011: “I don't think OU is going to be a wallflower when all is said and done.”
ALDEN: “They had this emergency meeting of the CEO’s, everybody put their hand in the middle, we're all together, ready, break. That kind of thing. I’m telling you, Brady and the CEO’s, they’re saying we’re all together, we've got to focus on this stuff right now, so we’ve got to be solid with, how many did we have at that time, nine?
So when Senator Boren came out with that comment, ‘We will not be wallflowers,’ that’s completely polar opposite of what he said at a meeting with all the CEO’s where we were all together.”
DEATON: “My governing was aggressive and positive and supportive of the Big 12 until we made the decision. We had had a board meeting and pledged support for the Big 12 across the board and then that evening…That really caught us by surprise. That was the turning point. Mike Alden and I got together and we said, ‘That’s enough.’ We then moved in the other direction. I immediately resigned as chair of the Big 12 so I could devote myself fully to the exploration...It was a very deliberate moment. Literally the next day I offered my resignation.”
ALDEN: “We have a high respect for OU as a school. But as a leader, the ego that goes along with that when you’re elbowing your way in and saying 'This is who we are,' I’m gonna take this press conference over somebody else. It’s just like he’s doing right now. Now he comes out with a comment that says maybe we’re not going to expand. Who are you? Who made you the head of the Big 12 Conference? You know who did? Senator Boren made himself.”
LOFTIN: “Why do you say that? You might think that, but why would you want to say that publicly? You have to understand, too, what was going on. Boren made a real effort to take Oklahoma and Oklahoma State to the PAC then and that was stymied by Bill Powers (University of Texas President).”
GOTTLIEB: “Boren’s need to be in the headlines and need to be the guy out in front of conference expansion has been troublesome to everybody else in the league because it’s not necessarily born in reality. Boren’s got the same issue now.”
The next day, Alden, Deaton, Hoskins and Owens held the decisive meeting on the press box roof during the first quarter of the 2011 season opener.
MACHEN: “Brady was publicly espousing let’s keep them together and he even told us that. We said 'Okay, if that’s the way it’s going, that’s the way it’s going'…I think if you really traced it down, it goes to Oklahoma more than anybody else and their behavior during that period of time.”
PINKEL: “Zero trust.”
ALDEN: “I’m confident soon thereafter, Brady probably would have had a discussion with Bernie Machen. I’m just guessing. I can promise you I called Mike Slive. He’d known me since I was a little guy. I’m just calling him, ‘Commissioner Slive, have you seen what’s happening out here? Would there be anything?’ If you know Mike Slive he’s always playing the cards close to the vest and he’s very precautionary. He said, ‘Mike, I hear you. I’ve got a lot of respect for you, got a lot of respect for Gary, I know that people have a lot of respect for the Chancellor. You guys have a good school, but right now we’re just not sure. But let me tell you how much I appreciate you reaching out.’ Then I called (SEC Deputy Commissioner) Greg Sankey because I know him. ‘Hey man, I’m just saying. Because you hear what’s going on here.’ Soon thereafter then the SEC indicated that hey we’d like you to be able to come out and talk to us. It was really important that the SEC never came after us. That’s true. Mike Slive is too smart for that. They never solicited Mizzou. Ever...What we wanted to do was be able to communicate to the SEC that if the SEC was interested in expanding by another school here’s the information about the University of Missouri. Soon after that game, we communicated, hey, we may have to do what’s best for us.”
SEPTEMBER 2011: THE SEC'S RESPONSE
After some legal posturing had been disposed of, Texas A&M’s move was official and the SEC now had 13 teams. Most didn’t think it would stay on that number for very long.
TRAVIS: “You knew that they weren’t going to be lopsided. So the question became, what would make sense in terms of a 14th partner? Based on everybody that I talked to, the factors that would be in play were number of cable households and also academics. And so you look around at the available potential institutions that could be added and everybody that I was talking to was saying Mizzou was the play.”
MACHEN: “We started getting pushback from the athletic directors about how complicated it would be to have a 13-team league. How it didn’t fit, you know? That’s when we said, the presidents of course, we hadn’t really talked about that and frankly we weren’t sure at that point it was a big deal, but the AD’s had tried to make it a big deal. So we said, ‘Okay, we’ll start looking around.’ We started looking around and that’s about the time that Brady got serious, called us back. We had several other teams we were sort of playing with, but Missouri’s quite a good school and we were very impressed with the possibility of having them join our league.”
LOFTIN: “They agreed to have [A&M] in and we actually worked out a full 13-team conference schedule before Missouri’s situation got resolved. I’ve even got one of those SEC emblems with 13. I’ve got the only one that probably exists. I was given that as a prize when we officially joined the SEC. There was a complete process done to integrate us in as a 13-team conference with the understanding that there would have to be a change made soon.”
NIXON: “I don’t know the exact time it was but once it got engaged, then for example, I’d go to Southern Governors’ meetings. All the other governors would talk to me about it. Oh yeah. Those folks in the South, especially on the football side, they were incredibly gung ho about their league and the bond between those states and how it had been a great value for them and how Slive and his team were doing a great job and they were optimistic about the network and that with the Big Ten moving the way they were and the PAC-10 moving the way they were that the SEC was going to have to expand the physical sizes of its footprint.”
SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2011: MIZZOU IS ON THE MARKET
By this time, it had been widely reported that the Southeastern Conference was a real, viable option for Mizzou. Not only were the Tigers openly looking around...so was most of the rest of the league. At least those who had the option.
CHIP BROWN, ORANGEBLOODS.COM, SEPTEMBER 12, 2011: “Oklahoma will apply for membership to the Pac-12 before the end of the month, and Oklahoma State is expected to follow suit, a source close to OU's administration told Orangebloods.com.
Even though Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott said Friday the Pac-12 was not interested in expansion at this time, OU's board of regents is fed up with the instability in the Big 12, the source said.”
SCOTT STATEMENT, SEPTEMBER 20, 2011: “After careful review we have determined that it is in the best interests of our member institutions, student-athletes and fans to remain a 12-team conference. While we have great respect for all of the institutions that have contacted us, and certain expansion proposals were financially attractive, we have a strong conference structure and culture of equality that we are committed to preserve.”
Deaton had been empowered by the Board of Curators to explore Missouri’s conference affiliation. Mizzou was openly looking at the possibility of a move. He was to hold a press conference with members of the media at Jesse Hall on the night of September 22, following the removal of Dan Beebe as the Big 12 Commissioner. Some reporters were in the room, others were joining on a teleconference. Just minutes before the start of that teleconference, lines were crossed and reporters listened in on the beginning of Boren’s own teleconference, which started 15 minutes before Deaton’s was scheduled.
BOREN, SEPTEMBER 22, 2011: “It shows that we fully intend to stay together. It shows we're going to be stable and not have year-to-year dramas like we've had.”
UNIVERSITY OF KANSAS STATEMENT, SEPTEMBER 22, 2011: “Tonight, nine members of the Big 12 Conference affirmed their solidarity and agreed to measures that will ensure the stability of the conference moving forward.
“While details remain to be worked out, this agreement points to a bright future for the Big 12 and allows us all to begin to turn our attention back to the accomplishments of our student-athletes in the classroom and on the field of competition.”
Deaton did not agree. Mizzou made no pledge—binding or not—to the Big 12 that night. On October 4, 2011, the Board of Curators gave Deaton full power to make decisions on the conference affiliation for Mizzou.
DEATON STATEMENT, OCTOBER 4, 2011: “To avoid any perceived or actual conflict of interest, I’ve relinquished my role as chair of the Big 12 Board of Directors in order to focus more fully on MU’s best interests. I continue to be grateful for the support of the Mizzou family throughout the nation and across this state. We are dedicated to the best outcomes for our student-athletes."
BIG 12 COMMISSIONER CHUCK NEINAS, OCTOBER 4, 2011: “I anticipate the University will continue to be a member of the Big 12.”
OCTOBER 2011: INCHING TOWARD THE SEC
While the process dragged on with an endless parade of Curators’ meetings across the state, it became more and more obvious that Missouri was headed for a home outside of the Big 12 Conference. And by the end of the month, it was unofficially official that the Tigers were headed to the Southeastern Conference.
DEATON TO KOMU-TV, OCTOBER 24, 2011: “We’re reasonably clear where we stand. I think the Big 12 is making some of the right moves that are necessary for the Big 12 to do so we'll see where that goes.”
TRAVIS: “It’s not just about Missouri. It’s also about the state of the Big 12 at that time. You had everybody kind of trying to flee a sinking ship. As soon as A&M made its decision to go, the Big 12 had just lost Colorado, it had just lost Nebraska and what Texas and Oklahoma wanted to do was unclear so every school was for itself. The SEC was such an incredible landing place. I knew based on the fact that people make typically rational decisions that benefit them, that there was no way Missouri was going to pass on the opportunity to join the SEC at the time while the Big 12 was collapsing. I think also at that point in time the Mizzou fans did start to have a lot of an impact. They wanted to go to the SEC. Even if there was some reticence at Missouri about leaving, the fans got so excited once they found out that it was in play that you couldn’t walk this back.”
MACHEN: “We never considered Missouri and somebody else. We considered A&M and then we considered Missouri. I think there were others in the background, but we didn’t want to get into the mess that you’re seeing happen over in Big 12 land right now.”
PINKEL: “I thought it was really cool Brady called me and we talked about half an hour, 40 minutes. He just really wanted to know my feeling. Certainly I talked to him about how great the league is, it’s remarkably competitive. It’s all about resources, that you match resources. I just kind of expressed that. He kind of told me, Mike had kind of filled me in, we communicated so well, just all the things that were going on at the same time. He just really wanted to know my opinion. I thought that was really good. We talked at length. I didn’t talk to my staff at all about anything because they had to focus on what they had to do. Just wait and see. Wait and see what went down...I said I’m glad they're interested. It gave me a little bit of confidence that the University of Missouri is going to end up maybe better off than anywhere we could be.”
ALDEN: “They asked us to come meet with them which we did. Brady, myself, Steve Owens and Phil Hoskins, the four of us met with them in Charlotte, North Carolina. We met there and I remember when we went into that meeting with Bernie and (SEC Exectuive Associate Commissioner) Mark Womack, Greg Sankey, their general counsel and Mike Slive, it was just first class…And then when we came back from that we still weren’t sure. Because again we needed to put ourselves in a position to say we would like to be able to join the SEC. Because there was no way they were going to say we want you to join the SEC.”
MACHEN: “The reality was we didn’t want to be seen as predators. But the technicality was we weren’t after Mizzou, we had to make sure that they were after us. They said, ‘If we come after you, you’re not going to reject us’ so we were all sort of dancing around. You can see how messy it’s gotten right now with the Big 12 and all the bullshit they’re going through. We just didn’t want that to happen. We wanted it to be clean if we moved forward and they were willing to say that they asked then we were willing to say that we would accept them.”
ALDEN: “Probably around the end of October we felt like we had everything together. It would have been great to contact the SEC, but to do that, we had to have approval from our Board of Curators…Once we were able to do that then Brady would be able to say ‘We’ve done everything we need to do. Now if you have an opening, the SEC would be a place we would want to go.’ And then Bernie and Mike Slive would be able to respond.”
MACHEN: “We were both sort of nursing along, is this really going to happen? Is it possible that this could happen? We just kept inching closer and closer to each other and it just kept feeling good so we finally just said, ‘Okay let’s do it.’”
On October 27, late at night, an SEC Conference official webpage appeared welcoming Missouri to the conference.
TRAVIS: “They had the release already written. They had an article about how good of a fit Missouri was going to be in the SEC. It was posted on their webpage and I got tipped off. It was supposed to be a hidden page that wasn’t accessible and I got tipped off that that page was accessible and I pulled it up on my laptop, immediately wrote about it on Outkick and tweeted about it. I don’t know when the official release got released. I don’t remember that, but once you saw that the page was already written, it was a foregone conclusion.”
The very next day, the Big 12 put out an official release welcoming West Virginia to the league. It did not mention Mizzou.
BIG 12 RELEASE, OCTOBER 28, 2011: “Beginning with the 2012-13 season it is expected that the Big 12 Conference will be comprised of 10 Universities – Baylor, Iowa State, Kansas, Kansas State, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, TCU, Texas, Texas Tech and West Virginia.”
DEATON: “I do remember it happening and it got a bit of a chuckle in one sense…Quite honestly from a technical standpoint those types of things could happen and then we could never have left. Until the last I is dotted and T is crossed, things aren’t always there.”
NOVEMBER 6, 2011: THE DEAL IS DONE
On a Sunday morning, following a 42-39 loss to Robert Griffin III and Baylor on Saturday night in Waco, the SEC confirmed in an official release what virtually everyone had already accepted as a reality: Missouri was joining the SEC. A few hours later, Slive, Machen, Deaton and Alden were center stage at a celebration in the student union on Mizzou’s campus.
SEC COMMISSIONER MIKE SLIVE, NOVEMBER 6, 2011: "We are pleased, and we are proud to welcome you to the family of the Southeastern Conference. We know that Homecoming is a special tradition here at Missouri. So let me say to the entire Missouri nation, 'Welcome to your new home.’”
MACHEN: “Mike was going to go to Columbia, I was like, ‘What the hell, I went to high school up there, I’m going to go too.’ The dean of education here, Glenn Good, had come from Missouri about two years ago so he and his wife rode up with us as well. It’s one of the most fun things I got to do as a President, to go into Columbia that night and have that reception and have that announcement in the student union there. It was just a ball. It was just a great time.”
PINKEL: “We lost the game so I was not in a very good mood, but it was obviously a big splash and it was done very first class working with the Commissioner. Again, we lost the game so I wasn’t very happy. I was very happy to be there, it was great that we did it, but at that time, that wasn’t my priority. I loved the enthusiasm and how they did it.”
ALDEN: “It wasn’t about This is who we are. It was all about We are so excited Mizzou is here. It was all about Mizzou. It was great. It was a huge celebration. It was a great statement about the University of Missouri. If I may, our hope would be that we would want to be able to receive that type of reception with our new family. It was pretty cool.”
TRAVIS: “What the SEC did from the get-go that is different from every other conference when it expanded is that as soon as you join us, you get treated equally and I think that’s hard to pass up when you look at the overall landscape. Texas A&M was begging to come to the SEC and fit immediately culturally. I think Mizzou was a really good fit too based on my experience what I’ve seen. But I think there was more uncertainty about that. But when I go to Mizzou’s campus, it doesn’t feel any different than when I’m on Georgia’s campus.”
MACHEN: “The SEC’s pretty smug in the sense that we’ve always said ‘If you don’t want to be with us, we don’t want you.’ …We didn’t do like the Big Ten and the others. There was no fade in. When you were in you were in and they got a full share of all the bowl revenue from day one. That’s just the way we did things.”
DEATON: “Bernie, I can remember a discussion that we had and, look, somebody would leave the SEC and they would just leave. What do you have to pay back the conference and all that? He said ‘We’ve never had to face that discussion.’ It seems so unrealistic to us. They can leave. That attitude of confidence in who you are, of a common culture of academic values and competitive values that says this is a fair process, that was a welcome sign to those of us here at the University of Missouri...It was wonderful after we made the change as to how relatively less time we had to spend administratively being concerned about the conference.”
ALDEN: “We were on a team that everybody was treated the same. We deserved that. Mizzou deserved that. That was not the case in the Big 12 and I would guess it’s still not the case.....Bernie Machen at Florida and, at the time, Mal Moore and everybody at Alabama, could they have dictated things? Absolutely. As big as they are? They’re saying we treat everybody, Vanderbilt, Arkansas, Mizzou, we treat everyone the same. So when you guys are in, full share. Even if that meant that other schools were going to take a little bit of a haircut, that didn't matter. If we’re going to lose a million because we’ve got to cut Mizzou in and A&M full share the first year, got it. No problem. No problem Commissioner. I remember them saying that.”
THE AFTERMATH: EASY DECISION RESULTS IN HARD FEELINGS
LOFTIN: “I was back at A&M this weekend for my 45th class reunion. I must have had 50 people ask me ‘Was it a hard decision?’ I said, ‘No. Easy decision, hard execution.’”
DEATON: “Overall it was frankly a wonderful decision. That’s a decision I have never looked back on because the benefits have been so obvious for the University of Missouri.”
The vitriol flowed freely. Big 12 leaders and associates fired loudly and repeatedly at Missouri. Five years later, Missouri is expected to haul in nearly $40 million from the SEC. The Tigers have appeared in two conference championship games in football and have now faced every team in the league at least once.
GOTTLIEB: “Unequivocally it’s worse for everybody. Unequivocally. I think it’s sad. You know, the great thing about old people that go to all the games, they can draw up memories of ‘I remember when Norm Stewart came in here and Big Country beat him at the buzzer.’ Nobody in the SEC has any appreciation for how good Missouri was, for Dr. Detroit and Doug Smith and Jon Sundvold and all those guys. Nobody has any appreciation for it. There’s sweat equity. They cut off the sweat equity…Missouri was synonymous with the Big Eight. Colorado, Missouri and the fifth down. Who gives a shit about that now? Or Matt Davison’s catch, Nebraska, Missouri. Who gives a shit now? Jason Sutherland, the most hated player in the history of the Big 12 Conference. Nobody in the SEC knows who the fuck he is now. Jason Sutherland shows up at an Oklahoma State-Missouri game, he gets booed lustily. Right? They remember me. He goes to a Missouri-Kentucky game on the road, they're like, 'Who’s that?' Jason Sutherland. So? I don't think people have enough appreciation for history.”
TRAVIS: “If you get married and instantly become a hundred millionaire, it’s kind of hard to think you made a bad decision…I think for the SEC there’s no question it’s been good. I think A&M and Missouri have made the SEC better than it was without A&M and Missouri.”
DODDS, FEBRUARY 2013: “We’re going to have good years again. Our bad years are not that bad. Take a school like Missouri. Our bad years are better than their good years. But we’ve created a standard.”
ALDEN: “Texas’ worst years are like Missouri’s best years. Who makes those kind of comments? You know who makes those kind of comments? Arrogant people in arrogant institutions. And that’s exactly, in my opinion, that’s what we saw throughout the whole process.”
NIXON: “Mr. Dodds is not a constituent of mine. It’s sports for gosh sakes. I’m not saying this is unimportant, but in the realm of critiques when you’re in this particular position, this is not something that I get great angst about. It is what it is and what’s the old (saying)? A kicked dog hollers, you know?”
DEATON: “Well let me say we paid relatively little attention to any of those loose comments by a lot of those people out there that you mentioned because they’re not relevant to what’s going on. They were always misinformed to a great extent because they’re not at the table engaged in the discussions. You hear those kinds of discussions all along. Those didn’t trouble us very much.”
Missouri’s first year in the conference was a struggle with the Tigers finishing 5-7 and missing a bowl game for the first time in eight seasons. But they would rebound with back-to-back SEC East Division titles in 2013 and 2014 to put themselves on solid footing--footing many thought they would never reach in college football’s most treacherous conference.
MACHEN: “We knew Pinkel was a quality guy. Frankly we didn’t think Missouri had been that good of late. We were impressed with what looked like was going to happen if they got into the SEC, the big facility push, all the things that they were going to do. We had no idea Pinkel was gonna turn around and beat us and be that good that quick.”
PINKEL: “I appreciate that. It was very nice of him to say that. I wish we’d have done better. We won two championships and I think fourth in the nation. I know this, that football is going to be a priority and they had respect for our program.”
ALDEN: “When we secured our berth in Atlanta, I think this said something to me about the SEC, when we secured our berth there, when we were named SEC East champions in 2013, I’m being serious, by the end of the next day every athletic director in the SEC, every single one, had called me or texted me. First one was Jeremy Foley. But every one said congratulations. Amazing. When Jeremy called me, he said first of all, 'Congratulations, this is great for the league, it’s great for Mizzou and I just got to tell you something when you experience this in Atlanta, other than the national championship games Florida had played in, this is the best experience you're ever going to have.' Where we came from? That wouldn’t have happened.”
MACHEN: “As you can tell, both A&M and Missouri are very competitive in our league. It’s not like we took two bottom feeders and let them sit at the bottom of our league. They’re very active and they’re very good. The other thing that happened that helped everybody around that time was the (SEC Network) channel came online. I’ve been deposed by lawyers who are trying to make this case that we only took Missouri and A&M because of the channel. We actually took them before the channel and so we had no real understanding of what the impact of that was going to be. That has been another reason I would tell you that the SEC would probably unanimously say that expansion has been a positive thing for our league.”
ALDEN: “Flagship institution in the state, six million people in the state, AAU institution, research, all that was absolutely critically important. But if you don’t have the program like what [Pinkel] built in football there’s no way. No. No way. We don’t have a chance.”
FALL 2016: MEANWHILE IN THE OLD NEIGHBORHOOD
While the Tigers and Aggies go forward in the SEC, Nebraska awaits its first full payday in the Big Ten and Colorado appears to be headed toward a revival in the PAC-12, the battle in the Big 12 continues.
On Monday afternoon, after months of back-and-forth, the league announced it would not expand. The conference had interviewed or considered up to 18 potential candidates, but for the time being will stand pat with the ten schools it has had since Colorado, Nebraska, Missouri and A&M left and TCU and West Virginia came aboard.
Missouri is no longer in the Big 12, but five years later, the fascination with conference realignment still resonates and there are plenty at Mizzou still paying attention as its old league endures the same struggles that drove four teams out in 2010 and 2011.
GOTTLIEB: “I think that the Big 12 is also losers. Now they’re gonna have the same thing, we’re gonna have to expand and get somebody and pretend we like them when we really don’t like them. Like we’re going to go get Houston? Houston’s a commuter school. They don’t belong in the Big 12. Whatever. It’s been 20 years since the Big 12 was formed and all of a sudden Houston is decent in football, they draw 50 people a game in basketball and we’re going to let them in because they’re redoing that arena and they won a couple football games? I don’t know how that helps anybody.”
LOFTIN: “The problem with the Big 12 is geography’s against them. It really is. That is going to hang over them for a while. If Texas walks, which is always possible, then that’s going to be the end of the Big 12...How many schools are there in that little swath of the country that really make sense to put together? That’s the question, you see. And Houston clearly is a viable candidate, but if it’s about TV, what does that buy you? Nothing. That’s the real bottom line. A&M coming into the SEC brought in 30 million people. It was a huge addition. Bringing Missouri in brought in two cities. Fine. It’s sensible stuff. But who would you add to the Big 12 now that makes sense geographically and also brought in new people?”
BERRY TRAMEL, DAILY OKLAHOMAN, SEPTEMBER 27, 2016: “'From Day One, expanding was OK if we replaced the teams we lost with teams of equal stature,' said an OU administrator Tuesday. 'They are not out there.'
Brigham Young. Houston. Cincinnati. Connecticut. All have pluses and minuses. We can debate which candidates offer the best portfolios. We cannot debate that all have minuses.
Nebraska didn't have minuses. Texas A&M didn't have minuses. Colorado and Missouri didn't have minuses. All flagship universities in their states. All deep roots with fellow conference schools. All a decent (or better) amount of football tradition. All academically stout (all four members of the prestigious Association of American Universities).
'The teams we need have left,' another Big 12 administrator said Tuesday. 'Whoever you add out there really devalues the whole conference. They don't add anything. Just to get 12? What's sacred about a number? Does that make you stable?'”
DEATON: “I'm very happy to not be involved in those discussions at this point…If you’re involved inside it, it’s always discomforting to some degree. Disconcerting is a better word because you're using a lot of emotional energy that could be devoted to enhancing the strength and power of your University academically. It’s being drained a lot of times by the battles that are strictly on athletics and that’s not a very positive thing for a lot of University presidents and chancellors. The academic scene in America is the big scene and we need to keep that in mind.”
EPILOGUE: LOOKING BACK ON THE CHAOS
PINKEL: “We did the right thing for the University of Missouri. Without question. It was the right thing to do. I don’t think anybody would argue that.”
ALDEN: “It was every day for several years. It was chaotic. At the end of all of it, I think hopefully history will tell, but I’m hoping it’s going to be good for Mizzou.”
NIXON: “If you’re going to be the best you’ve got to play the best. I think it’s great. I think Missouri being in the best football league in America is great. I think that us going to the championship game two of the first four years shows we can compete with anybody in the world. I think you’re going to have good years and bad years when you play in a league this competitive, but my golly, to be from a land grant University which I have a dual degree from, my wife’s family is involved and to have us playing in the best college athletic league, especially in football, is awesome. It’s great. I have high hopes for Mizzou athletics and the only way you’re gonna know how good you can be is to tune up and play every week with the best. That’s the kind of competition that we do in our economy every day. We don’t just get to pick and compete against Rhode Island when it comes to corn crops. This is a world competition for jobs, it’s a world competition for education and when you get a chance to compete weekly in a multitude of sports in the best amateur sports league in this country and probably the world, it’s a very good thing for your state.”
DEATON: “Traveling around the country today, which I do a fair amount in the work I’m doing, often I will run into people and the biggest thing they remember about my time at Missouri is ‘Oh yeah, that’s when you all went to the SEC.’ I say sure, it’s fine. No problem. I think it was also in many ways a microcosm of a lot of the very big decisions we were involved in through that era. And we feel good about them. We had a great team at work driving the institution forward and this was one of those. We feel we made the right decision here and we celebrate it.”